The Objects of the Narcissist
By: Dr. Sam Vaknin
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This kind of narcissist jealously guards his possessions - his collections, his furniture, his cars, his children, his women, his money, his credit cards... Objects comfort the narcissist. They remind him of his status. They are linked to gratifying events and, thus, constitute Secondary Sources of Narcissistic Supply. They attest to the narcissist's wealth, his connections, his achievements, his friendships, his conquests, and his glorious past. No wonder he is so attached to them. Objects connected with failures or embarrassments have no place in his abode. They get cast out.
Moreover, owning the right objects often guarantees the uninterrupted flow of Narcissistic Supply. A flashy car or an ostentatious house help the somatic narcissist attract sexual partners. Owning a high powered computer and a broadband connection, or a sizable and expensive library, facilitate the intellectual pursuits of the cerebral narcissist. Sporting a glamorous wife and politically correct kids is indispensable in the careers of the narcissistic politician, or diplomat.
The narcissist parades his objects, flaunts them, consumes them conspicuously, praises them vocally, draws attention to them compulsively, brags about them incessantly. When they fail to elicit Narcissistic Supply - admiration, adulation, marvel - the narcissist feels wounded, humiliated, deprived, discriminated against, the victim of a conspiracy, unloved.
Objects often make the accumulator-narcissist. They are an inseparable part of his pathology. This type of narcissist is possessive. He obsesses about his belongings and collects them compulsively. He "brands" them as his own. He infuses them with his spirit and his personality. He attributes to them his traits. He projects to them his thwarted emotions, his fears, his hopes. They are an integral part of him, inseparable, providing emotional succor.
Such a narcissist will say: "My car is daring and unstoppable", or "How clever is my computer!", or "My dog is cunning", or "My wife craves attention". He often compares people to the inanimate. Himself he sees as a computer or sex machine. His wife he regards as some kind of luxury good. The narcissist loves objects and relates to them - things he fails to do with humans. This is why he objectifies people - it makes it easier for him to interact with them. Objects are predictable, reliable, always there, obedient, easy to control and manipulate, universally desired.
A long time ago I was asked if objects, or pets could serve as Sources of Narcissistic Supply. I described in my response a second type of narcissist - the DISCARDER.
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I responded thus (the full text is available here: http://samvak.tripod.com/faq46.html)
Any thing can serve as a Source of Narcissistic Supply, providing that it has the potential to attract people' attention and be the subject of their admiration. This is why narcissists are enamored of status symbols, i.e., objects, which comprehensively encapsulate and concisely convey a host of data regarding their owners. These data generate a reaction in people: they make them look, admire, envy, dream, compare, or aspire. In short: they elicit Narcissistic Supply.
But, generally, discarder narcissists do not like souvenirs and the memories they bring. They are afraid to get emotionally attached to them and then get hurt if the objects are lost or stolen or expropriated or taken by creditors. Narcissists are sad people. Almost anything can depress them: a tune, a photograph, a work of art, a book, a mental image, or a voice. Narcissists are people who divorced their emotions because their emotions are mostly negative and painful, coloured by their basic trauma, by the early abuses that they suffered.
Objects, situations, voices, sights, colours - can provoke and evoke unwanted memories. The narcissist tries to avoid them. The discarder narcissist callously discards or gives away hard-won objects, memorabilia, gifts, and property. This behaviour sustains his sense of control and lack of vulnerability. It also proves to him that he is unique, not like "other people" who are attached to their material belongings. He is above this.
Accumulators and Narcissistic Handles
Still, not all narcissists are like this. Accumulator narcissists take to objects and memorabilia, to voices and tunes, to sights and to works of art - as reminders of their past glory and of their potential future grandeur. Many narcissists collect proofs and trophies of their sexual prowess, dramatic talent, past wealth, or intellectual achievements. They file them away almost compulsively. These are the "Narcissistic Handles".
The Narcissistic Handle operates through the mechanism of narcissistic branding. An example: objects, which belonged to former lovers, are "stamped" by them and become their full-fledged representations. They are fetishized. By interacting with these objects, the narcissist recreates the Narcissistic-Supply-rich situation, within which the objects were introduced into his life in the first place. This is magical thinking. Some clairvoyants claim to be able to extract all the information regarding the present, past and future states of the owner of an object they hold. It is as though the object, the memory, or the sound carry the narcissist back to where and when Narcissistic Supply was abundant.
This powerful combination of branding and evidencing is what gives rise to the "Narcissistic Contagion". This is the ability of the narcissist to objectify people and to anthropomorphesize objects in order to derive the maximum Narcissistic Supply from them. The narcissist is a pathogen. He transforms his human and non-human environments alike.
On the one hand, he invests as much affection and emotions in an inanimate object as healthier people do in human beings. On the other hand, he transforms people around him into functions, or objects.
In their effort to satisfy the needs of the narcissist - his nearest or dearest very often neglect their own. They feel that something is sick and wrong in their lives. But they are so entrapped, so much part of the narcissist's personal mythology that they cannot cut loose. Manipulated through guilt, leveraged through fear - they are but a shadow of their former selves. They have contracted the disease of narcissism. They have been infected and poisoned. They have been branded.
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